Trying New Vegetables: A Challenge for Some Children
Does your child “turnip” their nose at the sight of a new vegetable? If so, it can really “squash” your confidence as a parent. But don’t “beet” yourself up! The secret is to stay calm and introduce new foods gradually.
Below are just a few ideas of how to ease your little “sweet pea” into the experience!
The Mouth: Not Just for Tasting
We sometimes forget that the mouth not only detects taste but also senses the temperature, shape and texture of food. When we take a bite of something and chew it, we can actually hear the sounds it makes, sometimes faintly and sometimes quite noticeably. As the teeth grind it up, it turns into something else altogether. These are a lot of sensations to deal with all at once! Even before the mouth gets involved, the shape, colour and other cues start telling our brain whether we are going to like this new nibble or not. Being tolerant when introducing food is therefore very important. Encourage your child to taste it, but don’t make a big deal out of it if they don’t!
Variety and Quantity
Offering a variety of vegetables at the same meal lets a child feel like they have some choice and control over what they’re putting into their body. This may be enough to pique their curiosity and get them to try a little bit of something – or everything. But remember that a wider variety does not necessarily mean a larger quantity.
The Known and the Unknown
When introducing an unknown (or lesser-known) vegetable, be sure to serve it with something you know your child enjoys. That way, if they don’t touch the new addition, at least they have their tried-and-true favourites to revert to. And if they are intrigued (and hungry) enough that day to give the new item on their plate a whirl, so much the better!
Same Food = Different Food (Huh?)
One final thing to consider! In the eyes of a child, the same vegetable presented in different ways actually counts as a new food. Take carrots, for example. Imagine the taste, texture and sound of a raw carrot. Now imagine a cooked carrot… Not the same, is it? This example makes it easier to understand why a child may be reluctant to try the same food if it looks, smells and/or feels new.
Some Suggestions to Help Your Child Explore New Vegetables:
Cucumber slices + ricotta with fresh herbs
Cucumber slices + hummus
Vegetable sushi (hummus + carrot or green pepper sticks + zucchini or cucumber grated lengthwise, all rolled up)
Whole grain crackers + cottage cheese + cucumber + salt and pepper
Seasoned kale chips: parmesan cheese, ranch dressing, salt and vinegar, BBQ spices, etc.
Mini bocconcini cand cherry tomato salad + drizzle of oil + salt and pepper
Celery + cream cheese + dried cranberries
Celery + peanut butter + raisins
Raw vegetables with dip:
Ideas for raw veggies: baby carrots, green peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, etc.
Ideas for dips: hummus; lemon and herb Greek yogurt; pureed edamame (soybeans) and Greek yogurt; cottage cheese and salsa; tofu spread.
So be patient and offer a variety of vegetables. Present them several times in various ways so your child recognizes them, feels comfortable with them, puts them in their mouth, swallows them and, perhaps one day, learns to love them as much as you do!
Nathalie Regimbal, RDN
HUOT, Isabelle and REGIMBAL, Nathalie, Les menus solution famille, Montréal. Les éditions du Journal 2018, pp. 223.
Practice Point, Canadian Pediatric Society, Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee, Paediatr Child Health, 17(8):458-60. [online] https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/toddler-preschooler-who-does-not-eat (page consulted on March 14, 2019).